Category Archives: Lenses

Praise for Canon and a Little Shop in Hungary

Kevin in front of CAMERA KFT. in Budapest Hungary.

Bad things happen. We’ve all been there. From locking keys in the car to losing a wallet, every knows that sinking feeling at the moment of realization.

On my recent trip to Hungary, leading a photo tour, I stepped away from my tripod for a moment to help a participant with her camera… a few moments later a strong gust of wind blew between us and I heard a thud. I turned to see my Canon 1DX body and borrowed 800mm lens on the ground… no longer attached to each other. That sinking feeling took a moment to happen as my brain wrapped around the situation.

When I was finally able to inspect the damage, I found the mount on the lens and the mount on the body both broken. This was only day two of the tour and I was down one body and my big lens. Oh, well, I thought… move on and shoot with my other body and 100-400 lens.

However, our local guide, Gabor (he and his wife, Andrea, own Kondor Ecolodge), was already on the phone calling a friend. The friend gave him the name and number he needed and Gabor continued his quest. A few minutes later we were on our way to Budapest… making our previously planned, afternoon ice cream stop along the way, of course!

I had photographed Little Owl, European Roller and many Bee Eaters with this lens and body during the previous 36 hours we had been in Hungary, before the nightmare happened…

Arriving at CAMERA KFT., a Canon Professional Services repair shop and camera store, I handed over the broken equipment and was told to come back in 90 minutes. Really? 90 minutes?!

90 minutes later the lens was good as new. However, the body repair was going to take longer, so they loaned me a 1DX body until the next day, when they said the camera body would be fixed.

Matei Miklos handing over the repaired camera to Kevin.

The following afternoon, Gabor and I drove back to Budapest to pick up my Canon body from the repair shop (and returned the free loaner). Matei Miklós handed me my freshly repaired camera and sent me on my way. Fortunately, I have insurance through NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) and they had a check ready to send before I returned home from Hungary.

Thanks for the great service Matei. I got a lot of great images with the repaired equipment!

–Kevin Loughlin

REVIEW: Canon 200-400/4L – One Year Ago

Kevin with Canon 200-400/4L at Bosque del Apache, NM.

Kevin with Canon 200-400/4L at Bosque del Apache, NM.

 

Unicorns are real! For years the rumors flew about this mythical creation coming from Canon. Nikon user snickered as they already had their black unicorn for many years. In fact, many Canon users went to the ‘dark side’ because of this very lens. Sharp and versatile, the Nikon 200-400/4 lens had a great reputation and following, and deservedly so.

I was tempted, too, I must admit. A Nikon D800 with a dedicated Nikon 200-400/4 sounded like a great combination. Both are excellent pieces of equipment. But I waited. And waited. And waited some more. The rumors grew. Then one day I saw some photos on the Internet. But was it real? The photos looked strange… it had an odd bump on one side. More photos surfaced, and they all had that same strange bump. Maybe it was real?

A few months after the first images surfaced, I arrived to set up my booth at the Florida Birding and Photo Festival. As I was working, I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a white unicorn. Could it be? I waited quietly and yes, there it was, being hoisted up on its three-legged pedestal, an EOS-1D firmly affixed. I approached slowly…

The unique 'bump' on the Canon 200-400/4L houses the built-in 1.4x tele-converter.

The unique ‘bump’ on the Canon 200-400/4L houses the built-in 1.4x tele-converter.

Proof of existence! The Canon L-series plate.

Proof of existence! The Canon L-series plate.

 

 
Fast forward a few months. Production versions of the mythical beast, the Canon 200-400/4L with built-in 1.4x tele-converter was starting to ship and I received a notice from LensRentals.com that they would be available rent in time for my upcoming Galapagos Photo Adventure. It arrived on my doorstep the day before departure and I immediately rushed it to my back deck to micro-adjust each of my Canon bodies to the new lens. I was ready… let’s see if this lens could handle the rigors the traveling nature photographer and the harsh environs of sand and salt, plus a couple days in the cloud forests of the high Andean mountains.

This Large Cactus Finch on Española Island was photographed with  a Canon 7D and Canon 200-400/4L @ 400mm. Exposure settings were 1/400 sec @ f/8 & ISO 400.

This Large Cactus Finch on Española Island was photographed with a Canon 7D and Canon 200-400/4L @ 400mm. Exposure settings were 1/400 sec @ f/8 & ISO 400.

 

The versatility of this lens was as I had expected… 200-400mm is a great range to be able to frame a wild subject just right. Adding to this is the close focus range of only 2 meters… even when the 1.4x is in place for an effective 560mm. The wildlife on the Galaoagos is very cooperative, so frame-filling portraits of Blue-footed Boobies and Galapagos Hawks were made possible.

 

A light rain was falling as this stunning Chestnut-breasted Coronet bathed and preened.

A light rain was falling as this stunning Chestnut-breasted Coronet bathed and preened.

 

In the mountains, where we photographed hummingbirds, the close focus came in very handy. I even added a 25mm extension tube which helped me get close enough for frame-filling images of even the smallest hummers. The focus was quick on both my 7D body as well as my 5D Mk III. The 5D having the edge with its newer system, which was much more accurate as well.

 

These Night Monkeys peered at us through the shadows of the rainforest of the Amazon.

These Night Monkeys peered at us through the shadows of the rainforest of the Amazon.

 

A few months later I rented the lens again. Heading back to South America, this time the lens would be put to the test during our Amazon Riverboat Cruise. A very different, yet equally harsh environment, the wildlife here is less cooperative, but much more diverse. Sloths and Night Monkeys in deep shadows below the forest canopy, kingfishers of five varieties challenging the speed of focus as well as our own reflexes and skills. The Canon 200-400/4L still shined in all situations.

It is a heavy beast at about 8 pounds, but I am able to hand-hold it for short bursts. It is the same weight as the older Canon 500/4L (the new 500 shaved off a pound). Like the 500/4L, the 200-400/4L is best on a tripod, but for birds in flight, or from a boat, hand-holding is often easier and more efficient.

In all situations I was never disappointed with the versatility, speed of focus and especially the image quality!

–Kevin Loughlin/Owner, Wildside Nature Tours